Posted on 26th February, 2018



There’s no doubt a holiday in the sun, whether it be a few days or a few weeks, lifts your spirits. It doesn’t have to be an all singing all dancing all-inclusive holiday either. Interesting food, usually simply cooked using freshly bought ingredients, provides an insight into a country’s food culture and nowhere is this more obvious than Portugal. A recent break in Porto provided ample opportunity to sample staple local dishes. As a vegetarian I’ve spent many a holiday trying to explain ‘no meat, no fish’ but honestly, even in the most carnivorous countries, it’s no longer the issue it once was.


Riverside restaurants proudly display their vegetarian options and although these choices are usually salads no-one bats an eye if you ask for one of the main dishes ‘without meat/fish’. The markets overflow with fresh green vegetables and the obvious dish to use the vibrant local kale (couve gallego) is Caldo Verde. Now this is a warming, simple, frugal soup and is often served with slices of a chorizo style sausage or indeed with a local blood sausage, but as these options are added at the end most restaurants/cafes will omit this if asked. In fact on our last evening I had a steaming bowl of Caldo Verde overlooking the Ribeiro and the restaurant owner asked me if I would prefer it without the sausage, a nice touch I thought.


Back home I am suffering from that post-holiday comedown and although there is a beautifully clear blue sky the wind is bitterly cold and the weather forecast for the next few days is dire indeed. The cupboards and fridge have been suitably restocked, the intention being no more shopping for a month, however I feel the need for a bowl of Caldo Verde. I want to recapture the holiday feeling or at least try.


Now sadly I don’t have kale in the garden because the pigeons have kindly stripped most of the leaves while I’ve been away. This means I will have to improvise. You will find a simple green soup recipe on the website but this one differs in that it’s more substantial having a potato base.


Although I don’t have kale in the garden I do still have mizuna (a peppery green leaf similar to rocket but not quite as peppery), a few handfuls of rocket leaves (obviously!) and the ubiquitous chervil (it seems nothing is going to kill that off so come on frost do your worst!). I’ve also got a few cauliflower leaves, broccoli leaves from the garden and spinach so there’s plenty of green stuff available to provide the ‘verde’ to the finished soup.


Handful of garden greens

I’m not a purist, as I’m sure you will have realised by now, so this is my own version of ‘Caldo Verde’ not to be confused with the real deal enjoyed under starlit skies in Portugal.



4 or 5 medium floury potatoes-peeled but retain the peelings because I’ll give you tip for those at the end

1 large onion finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic-crushed (or use ready prepared easy-garlic)

1-2 litres of water-to be authentic you should use water only but I add a couple of good quality bouillon cubes

Olive oil

Plenty of shredded kale or greens of your choice-don’t skimp with the green stuff




Gently fry the onion and garlic in olive oil, add the cubed potatoes and cook along with the onions for a few minutes. Add the water (or stock) and bring to the boil, lowering the heat to a steady simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are falling apart, if you use a waxy potato this won’t happen so you could try mashing them to break them up manually otherwise the texture isn’t right..


Shred the leaves and add to the pan, bring back to a steady simmer until the greens are cooked. Depending on the type of leaves this can be anything from a few minutes to 10 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper, add a swirl of olive oil for authenticity.


Caldo Verde

I’ve made a seeded spelt loaf to go with the soup but an added twist, because I can’t bear the waste, is to rinse the potato peelings and dry them off, coat with olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and place on a baking sheet in the already hot oven for about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly but they are great served as a snack or alongside the soup.


The basic soup is fantastic but I’m sure you can think of your own twists that might remind you of holidays past. How about floating a large toasted crouton topped with cheese, or tomato and garlic if you’d rather omit the dairy aspect. Or small crispy garlic croutons sprinkled on the soup just before serving. The choices are endless but I hope you’ll give it a go, it’s too simple to ignore.


Bom apetite!


Seeded spelt loaf



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